Integrating Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) with Academics
The Need For Integrated Social & Emotional Learning
Really, we are. Never have we had such an amazing opportunity to address our world’s greatest challenges. Never have we had so many viable solutions in our hands. Never have we had so many passionate people with the ability to coordinate collaborative direct action towards a healthy planet in which everyone can live with dignity.
What’s holding us back? Most of our world's children are growing up without support and encouragement to practice some of our most necessary human abilities: to empathize, to think critically, to be creative, and to collaborate. To be curious. To wonder about the world, ourselves, and one another's life experiences.
Youth are being separated from the "storychanger" in them.
Separated from their curiosity to understand the challenges we face. Separated from the knowledge that there are effective ways we can address these challenges. Separated from the resources and empowerment to take direct action for positive change.
This act of separation is at the root of every challenge we face. And as we create an “other”, we make it infinitely harder to address challenges together.
We make judgments based on our understanding of the “other” – judgments about color, wealth, status, and country that box us in to a limited way of thinking and being. These judgments give us the false justification to devalue empathy, and to resist listening to and understanding one another. We are dividing ourselves from what makes us human.
This process of division begins with the stories children grow up learning. Especially those taught in school.
We have divided school by subject, by age, by community, and by country. We have divided school from its potential purpose of helping children find meaning in our ever-changing world. Instead, youth are being left with an empty promise that the information they’re memorizing in school will be relevant someday; that they’ll be valued in society for knowing it.
But information is abundant in today’s world. We don’t need to feed youth more of it. Today, what youth need to foster is an ability to think critically – to determine what information is truly valuable. To learn how to learn. To learn how to embed empathy into their daily practice. Into their very being. To respect one another, and to seek out collaboration. Youth need our support to create a better world for each other and their children. The world is changing, and yet globally our curriculum is painfully stagnant.
Coming Together: Social & Emotional Learning Integrated Directly With Academics
What if there was a way to make school truly relevant and engaging? What if every child enjoyed what he or she was learning about in the classroom? What if children felt like they had a purpose, and were ready to weave their passions into the needs of their communities? What if every child was learning something meaningful that they could apply to building a better world for all of us?
Youth growing up today see the huge hurdles ahead, and they want to effectively address them. But the hopelessness too many of us hold is being passed along to our children; too often, youth are being convinced that positive change is too difficult as they grow older. We must change this story. We must leverage the passion of youth to help them help us address these massive challenges. To move us beyond apathy, prejudice, and hate.
We can’t continue the story of past generations: a handful of changemakers tackling problems while everyone else goes about their lives. Hopeful drops in a sea of undesired apathy. To truly make lasting change, we need to make waves – we need to move the masses together. We need every kid everywhere to grow up learning to change the stories that need changing. Every kid, from an early age, and every single day.
This change can come through Integrated Learning: bringing social and emotional learning (SEL) to life for every student with content that inspires curiosity, motivation, empathy, global awareness, and academic engagement. We must change the story of social and emotional learning from a nice-to-have program "when we have time" into "The most fun, accessible way to learn. Period."
SEL is way too important to simmer on the backburner. When have humans ever become excellent at something we don't practice often? Social and emotional skills aren't any different. And in the case of SEL, it's critical that children are practicing these values and mindsets at scale. We need a concerted effort if we're going to change the way our world works for the better. We can't settle with having students in a few thousand classrooms engaged every now and then. There are hundreds of millions of children on this planet.
As governments, philanthropists, foundations, investors, practitioners, educators, parents, and organization leaders, we've got to become serious about social and emotional learning as a valuable investment in humanity's future. We've got to double down on making SEL possible early in life, every single day, and for every student on the planet.
A World Beyond Prejudice, Apathy, and Hate:
Social & Emotional Learning Opens Hearts and Minds
Imagine that world. Imagine children growing up learning about one another, our challenges, and the people working to address these challenges. Imagine children learning that there are huge opportunities for them to make a real, meaningful difference in their lives and communities. Imagine if youth all over the planet, regardless of access to resources, had only the most incredible role models to show them the way. Imagine children learning that they can change the story, for good. Imagine teachers everywhere leading this learning forward.
It’s time for a method of education that helps us raise empathetic, creative, and collaborative critical thinkers who are also academically brilliant. Storychangers. Leaders ready to build the new, who won’t dwell on and sit in the comfort of the old. It’s time for a generation beyond division. Beyond dogma. A generation refusing to be held back by the way the world is. One that won’t stop until we create the beautiful world that can be.
This is an open letter to everyone who wants better. This is a cry for leveraging our interconnectedness and interdependence to build a better world. This is a demand for better role models, for leaders truly ready to speak to our needs and to do as they say. Leaders whose example shows that the right choice can become the easy choice.
This is a case for why we've got to raise empathetic, globally aware citizens who are bent on improving the socio-economic, environmental, political, and spiritual wellbeing of the world around us. With humble curiosity, critical thinking, compassion, and math skills. Better Education = Better People = Better World.
This is the start of a new story. A story beyond borders. A story of unwavering empathy, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration leading us to a world rewoven: a healthy planet in which everyone lives together with dignity, informed choice, and purpose.
We have the greatest opportunity in human history sitting in our hands. It's time to integrate social and emotional learning into the core of every child's upbringing. Early in life, every day, and everywhere.
Peace and harmony are both sounding pretty good right about now.
Re-post from LinkedIn (Original post: April 26, 2015)
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